Bend craft breweries trying to satisfy demand

THE BULLETINApril 4, 2014 

Bend Beer

In November, Boneyard Beer co-owner and brewer Tony Lawrence looks over the Yakima Brewing 40-barrel, 1,240-gallon copper kettle brewing tank, which was built in 1990 and recently bought by Boneyard for its brewing facility under construction, in Bend, Ore. Boneyard will become the fourth Bend beer maker since January to expand production.

ANDY TULLIS / THE BULLETIN

BEND, Ore. - When it's time to load up the truck each morning, Tony Lawrence, of Boneyard Beer, struggles with the same question: "Who's getting the beer?"

The challenge, Lawrence said, is allocating enough beer for all the customers in Boneyard's distribution area, essentially Seattle to Eugene.

Last year, the brewery had to pull out of southern Oregon because it couldn't keep up with demand, said Lawrence, partner and brewmaster for the nearly 4-year-old brewery.

"There's so many growler filling stations and new pubs opening, and they all think they should have access to this product, but unfortunately there's not enough product to go around," he said.

It's the continuing demand for craft beer, in part, that led Damon Runberg, regional economist for the Oregon Employment Department, to say Oregon, apparently, is not "over-beered."

Over the last four years, the number of beer makers in central Oregon has grown nearly fourfold, and Runberg estimated that statewide, Oregon had 188 brewing establishments as of summer 2013.

"Many question the long-term viability of breweries and wonder whether or not there is a brewery bubble forming," Runberg wrote in a March 11 report. "This does not seem to be the case."

Craft brewers have increased their market share by taking some away from the large domestic brewers, Runberg wrote, citing Beer Institute figures. The buy local movement has also helped boost craft brewing, he stated, along with beer-related tourism.

In about 90 days, Lawrence hopes to better satisfy Boneyard customers when production begins at its new northeast Bend brewery.

Boneyard will become the fourth Bend beer maker since January to expand production. Another, Crux Fermentation Project, leased a 5,500-square-foot industrial warehouse earlier this month to expand capacity for future growth, according to a news release from Compass Commercial Real Estate Services.

And in January, Deschutes Brewery founder Gary Fish announced plans to double capacity, although he didn't specify when.

At an event on March 5, Fish said the question of how many breweries is too many depends on the consumer. Similar to consumer demand in other product categories, he said, beer drinkers want a variety of options; they want to be able to buy more local, buy more specialized and buy to suit their own particular tastes and circumstances.

People frequently ask him, he said, "How many breweries can we handle? When is the bubble going to burst? When is the trend going to be over?"

His typical response: "I don't know. Go ask Howard Schultz (Starbucks president and CEO) when that coffee thing is going to be over?"

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